Does Age Matter? Semantic Memory in Healthy Young and Elderly Adults

Grieder, Matthias; Crinelli, Raffaella; Dierks, Thomas; Wahlund, Lars-Olof; Wirth, Miranka (20 March 2009). Does Age Matter? Semantic Memory in Healthy Young and Elderly Adults. Neuropsychobiology, 59(2), pp. 59-79. Basel: Karger 10.1159/000209314

[img] Text
209314.pdf - Published Version
Restricted to registered users only
Available under License Publisher holds Copyright.

Download (59kB)

Background: Semantic memory processes have been well described in literature. However, the available findings are mostly based on relatively young subjects and concrete word material (e.g. tree). Comparatively little information exists about semantic memory for abstract words (e.g. mind) and possible age related changes in semantic retrieval. In this respect, we developed a paradigm that is useful to investigate the implicit (i.e. attentionindependent) access to concrete and abstract semantic memory. These processes were then compared between young and elderly healthy subjects. Methods: A well established tool for investigating semantic memory processes is the semantic priming paradigm, which consists both of semantically unrelated and related word pairs. In our behavioral task these noun-noun word pairs were further divided into concrete, abstract and matched pronounceable non-word conditions. With this premise, the young and elderly participants performed a lexical decision task: they were asked to press a choice of two buttons as an indication for whether the word pair contained a non-word or not. In order to minimize controlled (i.e. attention-dependent) retrieval strategies, a short stimulus onset asynchrony (SOA) of 150ms was set. Reaction time (RT) changes and accuracy to related and unrelated words (priming effect) in the abstract vs. concrete condition (concreteness effect) were the dependent variables of interest. Results and Discussion: Statistical analysis confirmed both a significant priming effect (i.e. shorter RTs in semantically related compared to unrelated words) and a concreteness effect (i.e. RT decrease for concrete compared to abstract words) in the young and elderly subjects. There was no age difference in accuracy. The only age effect was a commonly known general slowing in RT over all conditions. In conclusion, age is not a critical factor in the implicit access to abstract and concrete semantic memory.

Item Type:

Conference or Workshop Item (Abstract)


04 Faculty of Medicine > University Psychiatric Services > University Hospital of Psychiatry and Psychotherapy > Psychiatric Neurophysiology (discontinued)

UniBE Contributor:

Grieder, Matthias; Dierks, Thomas and Wirth, Miranka


100 Philosophy > 150 Psychology
600 Technology > 610 Medicine & health






[UNSPECIFIED] Synapsis Foundation
[UNSPECIFIED] Alzheimerfonden




Matthias Grieder

Date Deposited:

26 Nov 2014 14:20

Last Modified:

26 Jun 2016 01:56

Publisher DOI:





Actions (login required)

Edit item Edit item
Provide Feedback